ATB: Texas the New Florida?

Posted by rtmsf on December 22nd, 2009

Damion James Makes an Early Case for POY. #2 Texas 79, #9 Michigan State 68. Four days and two games against top ten opponents for Rick Barnes. No sweat, right? Texas passed yet another difficult test prior to the winter break by imposing their hellacious perimeter defense into 22 Michigan State turnovers and allowing the future Big 12 all-time rebounder Damion James to put up 23/13 on 10-18 FG in a statement victory at home. The dynamic defensive duo of Dogus Balbay and lengthy freshman Avery Bradley confused star point guard Kalin Lucas (3-11 FG and 2:6 A:TO ratio) all night while also forcing guards Chris Allen and Korie Lucious into a combined nine turnovers of their own. In a key stretch late in the second half, reserve forward Gary Johnson drained a difficult shot and forced two consecutive Michigan State miscues around the halfcourt line that were converted into easy buckets. But the real story is the utter dominance of Damion James. He’s now been clearly the best player on the floor against two national title participants in a matter of four days, making a case ahead of Sherron Collins, Cole Aldrich and Craig Brackins for the favorite to win Big 12 POY (and perhaps more). Texas also received four treys from freshman Jordan Hamilton and did most of their damage with center Dexter Pittman on the bench with foul trouble. One could certainly make a case for the Longhorns as the #1 team in the land. They play Kansas, right?

Texas is Good Enough to Do the Florida Twin-Title Thing

Down to Seven Unbeatens. Arkansas 66, Missouri State 62 (OT). The undefeated run came to a bitter end in Fayetteville for Missouri State as the enigma that is the Arkansas basketball team edged the Bears in overtime. Regulation ended in crazy fashion with a wide-open Caleb Patterson layup at the buzzer to send the game into overtime. With 18 seconds left in the extra frame, three-point mastermind Rotnei Clarke nailed a clutch trey and then sealed the game with two free throws afterwards. Missouri State struggled from the field all night, shooting just 32% from three and 31% overall in a rare positive showing for the Razorback defense. Kyle Weems led the way for the Bears with 24 points.

Cal Challenges Kansas for a Half. #1 Kansas 84, California 69. Maybe the Pac-10 is improving?  The much-maligned league got three wins over BCS conference teams in the same evening; and considering that coming into tonight’s games, the league was a combined 6-20 against the other five power conferences this season, three more wins in a single night is something to be excited about.  This was not one of those three wins.  For about twenty-five minutes tonight, though, Cal hung right there with the nation’s #1 team on its home court, but eventually the superior talent of KU won out, as the Jayhawks hit a scorching 73% for the second half and used a 15-3 run to open some distance and ultimately put the game away.  All five Kansas starters scored in double figures, led by Sherron Collins’ 17/5 and Cole Aldrich’s 10/10/5 blks.  Patrick Christopher had 21 for the Bears, picking up for the struggling star Jerome Randle (3-15 FG), who had trouble finding open looks against the Jayhawk defense (including seven turnovers).

Texas Tech Loses More Than a Game. #19 Washington 73, Texas A&M 64. UW got 25/13/3 blks from Quincy Pondexter, who is putting up all-america numbers this year, but more importantly the Huskies’ defense was superb, holding A&M to 30% shooting and handling the Aggies on the boards (+10).  The overarching story of this game, though, was the terrible injury that TAMU guard Derrick Roland suffered when he came down awkwardly and broke his leg after jumping under the basket in the second half.  Those who saw it live compared it to the gruesome broken leg that Joe Theismann once endured on national television a generation ago.  If you’re the type of person who does not handle seeing injuries well, you probably shouldn’t make the jump today (we put the video up, but you don’t have to watch it; seriously, it’s bad).

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ATB: Snow Problem, Plenty of Hoops…

Posted by rtmsf on December 20th, 2009

The Debacle in Hinkle#17 Butler 69, Xavier 68. The story over the weekend was the bizarre and (some say) unconscionable ending to the Butler-Xavier game on Saturday afternoon.  If you somehow missed it, check out our post on the subject from last night.  We pretty much agree that the referee crew followed the rules as they’re written, but that the rules as they’re written pretty much suck in a situation such as this.  RTC Live was there, and as our correspondent wrote at the time:

That would be one ballsy crew to take a full second OFF the clock against a visitor down by 1 point.  HUGE controversy WOW…. I have been doing bball for years and I cannot believe that they just did that?!?!?!?!?!”

Ballsy they were, but also correct by the letter of the law.  Unfortunately for Xavier and Chris Mack, the Musketeers were left holding the bag when a timing error led them to believe they’d have a final shot to win the game.  The NCAA needs to step up and immediately clarify this rule, including what kind of stopwatch can and cannot be used to estimate the time so that we’re not faced with an equally ridiculous ending on a much bigger stage later this year.

Jerry’s Joint#2 Texas 103, #10 UNC 90.  The featured game of the weekend at Jerry’s World known as the new-and-improved-to-a-ridiculous-degree Cowboys Stadium showed why many people are very high on Rick Barnes’ Texas team to cut down the nets in April.  UT put four players in the 20+ points column, including huge dub-dubs from seniors Damion James (25/15) and Dexter Pittman (23/15) to go along with Avery Bradley’s 20/4 assts/3 stls and J’Covan Brown’s 21/5/3 assts.  Showing the depth that Barnes now has at his disposal, much ballyhooed transfer Jai Lucas (recently eligible) only played six minutes and recorded zero points.  He’d start for most of the teams in the Top 25 from day one.  UNC’s Ed Davis was the only Carolina player who seemed comfortable with the waves of Texas players inside, as he blew up for 21/9/4 blks for one of his best performances of the year.  Texas will get another test on Tuesday of this week as Michigan State visits Austin, while UNC will head back home for a few easier games prior to the start of the ACC in early January.  We’re still worried about UNC’s point guard play, but we’d imagine that Texas is going to make a lot of pretty good teams look bad over the course of this season.  That team is loaded!

The JumboTron Dwarfs the Court (AP/Tony Gutierrez)

Gonz-awfulness#7 Duke 76, #15 Gonzaga 41.  In a game all too reminiscent of other early-season blowouts that Duke has administered on overrated teams, the Devils completely overwhelmed the Zags defensively to, as Mark Few put it after the game, “woodshed” his team on Saturday afternoon at MSG.  Duke’s defense held Gonzaga to a mere fifteen FGs for the game, 28% shooting, a single three-pointer and a quarter-century team low of 41 points.  Despite all the hype for the Duke bigs coming into the season, it’s been the backcourt play of Jon Scheyer and Nolan Smith, combining for 36 PPG, 7 RPG, and 10 APG that has truly driven this team to have the look as one of the best teams in America this year.  Scheyer’s ridiculous A:TO ratio of 5.8 to 1 actually went down after two TOs in this one, but his 20/5/8 assts more than made up for the miscue.  Smith added 24/3/3 assts, and we’re going to spare talking about the Gonzaga awfulness since not a single Zag got into double figures on the day.

Shot of the WeekendCornell 91, Davidson 88 (OT). Ryan Wittman’s 30-footer at the buzzer in overtime gave the Big Red its eighth win of the year and a shot at a Big East team (St. John’s) on Monday night at Madison Square Garden.  Lost in the heroics and glee of Wittman’s shot was the fact that it wouldn’t have even been possible had Louis Dale not hit a driving layup with 0.7 seconds remaining in regulation.  Cornell’s only two losses this year were against Big East teams (Seton Hall and Syracuse), so this will likely be the Ivy League favorite’s best chance to get a huge win this season (Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse is not realistic).  We haven’t been able to locate a video of this shot yet, but if you see one, let us know.

SEC Sucktitude. A week ago, we were ready to start believing that the SEC is much-improved this year.  Then the SEC East craps itself on Saturday and Sunday.  We’re reserving judgment for now, which of course means we really think this league is terrible and deserves only one bid (ok, not really).

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ATB: Is Syracuse the Best Team in America?

Posted by rtmsf on December 11th, 2009

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Light Night. We’re more or less heading into Finals Week across the nation, and aside from a few interesting games here and there around the country, ATBs are going to be fairly light for a while.  There’s no exams at RTC, though, so we’ll continue to keep you updated even as you head to the eggnog bowl for the third time this evening… but we’re not counting.

syracuse florida

Is Syracuse the Best Team in America? Syracuse 85, Florida 73. It’s a fair question.  Of the top 6-8 teams, all of whom are unbeaten so far this season, does any team have as impressive of a resume as double-digit wins over Cal, UNC and now Florida?  Doubtful.  And so long as the Cuse is getting unbelievable efficiency at the offensive end (#1 in eFG% and two-point FG%), it’s unlikely that they’re going to lose many games this year.  We talked about it back at the CvC, but there seems to be something about this Orange team — that little something extra — that makes them special, and maybe that’s why we continue to see Jim Boeheim smiling so much these days.  Tonight Syracuse had two players with dub-dubs in Rick Jackson (21/11) and Wesley Johnson (17/10) to withstand the Florida runs keyed by some deep three-point shooting in timely spots (12-30).  Kenny Boynton (20/7 assts) and Erving Walker (14/6 assts) had nice games for the Gators, but the starting UF frontcourt was virtually nonexistent on offense (18 pts) and downright bad on defense (outrebounded by twelve), which is something Billy Donovan’s team is going to face as a problem all season.  Syracuse moves on to another trio of easy home games, but a date at rising Seton Hall on 12/29 looms as another big test for Jim Boeheim’s team, who we believe may just be the best team in America right now.

SEC/Big East Invitational.  The Invitational ended at 2-2, with two good games and two terrible games over the two nights.  If this thing ever wants to be taken seriously, the organizers really need to sack up and get a 10-12 team event over two or three nights.  What’s the problem with that format?

  • Mississippi State 76, DePaul 54. This was a terrible mismatching of teams, and we’re wondering what was going through the heads of the people who chose this game as a featured matchup between conferences, but MSU dominated DePaul from the opening tip tonight and never let up throughout.  The Blue Demons were held to 28% shooting by the staunch MSU defense, and in a weird coincidence, all three of DePaul’s losses have come at the hands of SEC teams so far this year (ed. note: there will be more).   Jarvis Varnado had 12/14, while four other Bulldogs reached double figures in the blowout win.

Other Games of National Interest.

  • #14 Michigan State 88, Oakland 57. Here’s all you need to know about this game. MSU held Oakland’s Johnathan Jones to a mere two assists.  JJ was only the nation’s leading assist leader last season at 8.1 per game (and coming into tonight at 6.0 APG this year), and the MSU defense completely shut him down.  The Spartans got 19/12 from Draymond Green, and Kalin Lucas chipped in with 19/4 assts in an effort that Tom Izzo had to be pleased with tonight.  Oakland’s Keith Benson had 21/11 in the losing effort.
  • #19 Cincinnati 63, Miami (OH) 59. Someone explain how Miami can take Kentucky and Cincy to the wire, yet lose to Towson and Louisiana Tech?  The interesting thing about this game is that UC’s Lance Stephenson had his best game of his young career with 17/8/3 assts/3 stls.  Stephenson is exhibiting a well-rounded game during his last couple, and that means nothing good for the rest of the Big East if he starts to take off.
  • Colorado State 77, Colorado 62.  Cory Higgins had a miserable evening, shooting 1-10 and 0-4 from deep, finishing with 11 points, a full ten points under his average.  CSU got a key Mountain West victory over a Big 12 team for the first time this season, as Travis Franklin had 22/10 in the victory.
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ATB: Don’t You EVER Give Up…

Posted by rtmsf on December 9th, 2009

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Jimmy V Classic.  As someone whose family and loved ones have been seriously impacted by cancer, this is always one of our favorite events of the season.  We vividly remember the night at the ESPYs in March 1993 when Jim Valvano gave his inspirational speech, and even sixteen years later, it continues to stand the test of time.  “Don’t Give Up, Don’t Ever Give Up” became a mantra for people of our generation, and the positive effects that the Jimmy V Foundation has produced over the years gives Valvano a lasting legacy that many of his fellow coaches, many of whom were more successful at coaching basketball, will never know.  As long as this site exists, we’ll do this every year, and we’ll do it for the Green Bay Packers, Coach!

And now, on to the games…  RTC Live was in the building.

  • #13 Georgetown 72, #20 Butler 65.  Georgetown got 25 points and 14 rebounds from Greg Monroe as the Hoyas dominated Butler on the inside, outrebounding the Bulldogs 43-30. Perhaps Monroe’s biggest impact came on the defensive end, as he helped force Matt Howard into one of the worst games  of his career as he finished 1-9 from the floor while looking intimidated in the post before fouling out. Georgetown jumped out to a 52-35 second-half lead, which Butler couldn’t bounce back from. Austin Freeman was 4-5 from deep in adding 18 points for the Hoyas, who picked up a must-needed statement win. Butler, who got 24 and 8 boards from Gordon Hayward, is not the top 10 team that many predicted they would be during the preseason right now, but this is still an impressive win nonetheless. For Butler to be in position to earn an at-large bid should it come to that, they are now probably going to have to beat both Ohio State and Xavier in coming weeks.
  • Indiana 74, Pittsburgh 64.  Indiana picked up their first relevant win over a BCS team (beating Iowa last year doesn’t count) in the Tom Crean era as they thoroughly outplayed Pitt in MSG tonight. Indiana go 20 from Verdell Jones and 18 from Christian Watford as they finally broke through for a good win after losing three heartbreakers this season. The Hoosiers are going to be a dangerous team, as they do have some talented youngsters (we didn’t even get a good feel for Maurice Creek tonight), but IU may still be a year away from really being able to compete and make a run at the NCAA Tournament. Pitt, on the other hand, didn’t look like Pitt. They struggled defensively, they were beat up inside, and they settled for tough, deep jumpers. If Ashton Gibbs hadn’t been hitting from three (he had 25 on 8-25 shooting, 5-15 from three), this one could have been ugly (although, uglier than being down 17 to Indiana in this stage of their rebuild is tough to do).

Not an Upset of the Night Illinois 79, #24 Vanderbilt 68. Yes, Vandy was the ranked team, but Illinois was ranked as recently as last week and these teams are roughly even in our eyes.  A very nice intersectional matchup nonetheless.  The Illini shot a lights-out 59% from the field and ran out to a 9-0 early lead that put Vandy behind the eight-ball from the beginning.  Illinois guard Demetri McCamey lit up the Commodore defense for 8-10 from the field and 23/5 assts, while DJ Richardson added 16/3/3 assts in the win.  The Illinois defense has been somewhat maligned thus far this season, but they did a good job tonight of limiting AJ Ogilvy’s (8/3) touches and forced Jermaine Beal into a 4-14 shooting night.

Some Mid-Major Revenge (Some Not).  There were a few good opportunities for mid-majors to take down BCS teams tonight, and the little guys got a split this evening among the four games up for grabs.

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ATB: The Only Time You’ll See Auburn Here This Season

Posted by rtmsf on December 8th, 2009

atb

Story of the Night Week.  The lack of good games this week will mean our nightly ATBs will run a little shorter than usual.  From Monday to Friday, there will only be three games between ranked teams, and here’s your complete list.

  • Tuesday Dec. 8 – #13 Georgetown vs. #20 Butler (ESPN) – 7 pm (Jimmy V Classic)
  • Wednesday Dec. 9 – #4 Kentucky vs. #12 Connecticut (ESPN) – 9:30 pm (SEC/Big East Invitational)
  • Thursday Dec. 10 – #6 Syracuse vs. #11 Florida (ESPN) – 9 pm (SEC/Big East Invitational)

If you’re a regular here at RTC, you know that good games can come in all shapes and sizes, and there needn’t be two ranked teams to ensure our interest.  Still, this week offers a paucity of quality matchups on paper, but we’ll do our best to inform you as to the best games of each evening.

Game of the NightAuburn 68, Virginia 67.  We’re not sure why these two struggling teams from the SEC and ACC are even playing on a random Monday night before finals, but they did, and it was the War Eagles of Auburn that came out with the last-second tip-in to win.  We’d be remiss to say that this game is likely to impact either team’s postseason chances later this year (because neither team will be participating), but hey, the SEC will take a win over the ACC wherever it can get it.  After Virginia’s Sammy Zeglinski hit two FTs to put the Wahoos up by one with 7.7 seconds left, Auburn’s DeWayne Reed (18/5/7 assts) streaked upcourt to try to win the game.  When his layup attempt went awry, center Brendon Knox tipped it in with 1.4 remaining, giving Auburn the win (good thing… because Knox was 1-7 from the line).  Sylven Landesberg led UVa with 20/3 in the loss.

Floriani LiveSeton Hall 86, Massachusetts 68. RTC Live wasn’t there but correspondent Ray Floriani was, and he sent in his report…

NEWARK, NJ – Sunday evening Herb Pope spent most of the night ill. He visited Seton Hall coach Bobby Gonzalez Monday morning and informed him that he wasn’t sure he could play that night against UMass. Suffice it to say that Gonzalez probably didn’t feel too well at that point. A trip to the trainer for Pope and something to settle his stomach gave him enough strength to give it a shot. Gonzalez told Pope to ’raise your fist if you get tired and we will substitute.’ The fist was never raised. Pope logged 32 minutes with a game high 22 points and 16 rebounds in an 86-68 Seton Hall triumph over UMass at the Prudential Center.  Besides Pope’s outstanding work the story was defense. The first half numbers…

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ATB: Weekend Cheers & Jeers

Posted by rtmsf on December 7th, 2009

atb

The sports world may have told us that this was a college football weekend, but we know better, right?

CHEERS

That Kentucky vs. UNC is Meaningful Again.  Now that John Calipari is at Kentucky and his Cats are ranked in the Top 10 with a legitimate shot at postseason glory for the first time in a long while, it’s good to have this game on the early-season schedule.  UK rode a masterful 28-2 run to build an early 19-point lead behind John Wall’s 16/5/7 assts even though he spent much of the game cramping up, and the record crowd of 24k+ at Rupp Arena loved it… until UNC got their young legs settled in the second half, and a late 12-1 run got the Heels within one bucket with 0:33 remaining.  Eric Bledsoe and John Wall made five pressure-filled FTs to close it out 68-66 and UK moved to 8-0 on the season while UNC fell to 7-2.  One thing was clear, though — both of these teams are going to get a lot better before March – can we set a rematch in Indy on Semifinal Saturday four months from now?

Oregon State.  For putting an end to the discussion that was already gurgling (ahem) about the Pac-10 getting swept in the Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series.  The Beavers defeated Colorado 74-69 on Friday night to give the Pac-10 its first win in the Series, and through the weekend games, only Cal’s dominant home victory over Iowa State was the other.  The Big 12 now leads 8-2 in the matchup, and with two games remaining at Pac-10 venues, we’re still not coinvinced that the league will get another win (Oklahoma State @ Stanford & Texas A&M @ Washington).

Reggie Jackson. It didn’t count, but lordy…  Jackson damn near brough the entire world down with this ridiculous dunk (below) at the end of the BC-Miami (FL) game on Sunday.   Still, Jackson dropped 18/9 in a conference opener for both teams that showed both of these teams will be heard from in the ACC this season.  BC dominated the glass 43-19, but it was Jackson’s FTs (not a dunk) with three seconds remaining that gave BC the home win to go to 1-0 in league play.

Dunk to Win.  How about a dunk that did count?  On Saturday afternoon, Ole Miss’ Eniel Polynice broke free for a throwdown right before the buzzer that ended up being the winning margin, 81-79, over Southern Miss.  This was the capper on a wild game that saw the 7-1 Rebels come back from six pts down in the final minute to take the lead and win the game on that dunk.  We’ve yet to find online video of this play but it’s really impressive, so if someone finds it a link to the dunk only, please let us know.  Chris Warren added 20/6 assts for Ole Miss, while Gary Flowers contributed 20/8  for Southern Miss.  Afterwards, USM coach Larry Eustachy found time to throw Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury under the bus for not playing his team.  Good times.

JEERS

Gravity.  If you haven’t heard by now, Ohio State superstar Evan Turner took a nasty spill after attempting a dunk in the first few minutes of the Buckeyes’ 111-60 mauling of Eastern Michigan on Saturday afternoon.  He landed on the small of his back and broke two vertebrae which will shelve the early-season leading candidate for NPOY for at least eight weeks.  Ohio State will undoubtedly have trouble recovering from his loss during that time.  For a more detailed description and video of the fall, see our report from Saturday.

A 22-point Half.  You probably missed this on Friday night, but we didn’t.  Pitt and New Hampshire tried their best to set the game back fifty years with a wretched offensive performance during a 15-7 first half.  You read that right.  15-7.  The 22 combined points was the lowest for a half in the shot-clock era, which began in 1985.  It may as well have been 1955, though, as Pitt won 47-32 with the two teams combining for 31% shooting and Pitt in particular getting almost all of its points from two players — 23 from Ashton Gibbs and 19 from Brad Wanamaker.  In fact, the entire Pitt front line contributed a total of three points.  We’re not sure what exactly caused this, guys, but let’s please not let this happen again, ok?

She Looks Different With the Lights On.  Nouveaux-riche WCC powers Portland and San Diego are learning what it’s like to be Gonzaga after all these years.  Just one week after one of the most successful weekends in both schools’ basketball history, the giant red target that was placed squarely on their backs is weighing down both teams.  On Sunday, both teams took blowout losses at the hands of schools that were clearly fired up to get a shot at a team playing with the big boys into their arena.  Portland, the media RTC darling of a week ago,  lost its second straight game to a middie after finishing as the runner-up to West Virginia in the 76 Classic.  Idaho ran out to a 16-pt first-half lead and never looked back, holding Portland to 32% shooting and 6-22 from deep.  Things have been even worse for San Diego since returning as the runner-up in the Great Alaska Shootout.  The Toreros have dropped three straight games, including Friday night’s loss to UC Riverside and a 37-pt  (19% FG) stinker on Sunday at Fresno State (note: Brandon Johnson did miss the game for disciplinary reasons, but SD was still down 38 pts in this one at one time – ugh).  It was Idaho’s first win over a ranked team in 27 years and Fresno’s first win in five tries.  Both of these WCC teams are going to need to right the ship in home games this week (Denver and New Mexico, respectively) or be considered irrelevant by Christmas after such good starts.

Weekend Upsets.

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ATB: Can the Big 12 Sweep the Pac-10?

Posted by rtmsf on December 4th, 2009

atb

Who Else is Rooting for 12-0? The Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series started tonight (ok, officially it started Sunday when Nebraska defeated USC 52-49, but the bulk of games are over the next four days), and given just how horrible the Pac-10 has been so far this year, there is nothing at all surprising about the Big 12 sweeping tonight’s games to go to 4-0 in the Series.  Can the Big 12 sweep this entire event?  It would be one of the all-time PWNDs if the west coast ballers fail to win a single game, and from our quick analysis, this is a possible, if not plausible, scenario.  In looking at the remaining schedule, there are a couple of sure losses (Kansas at UCLA; Oregon at Missouri), one likely loss (Washington State at Kansas State), three more games where (according to Sagarin’s predictor) the Big 12 team will be favored (Arizona at Oklahoma; Oklahoma State at Stanford; Colorado at Oregon State), and two other games where — admit it — you wouldn’t be shocked if the Big 12 team pulled out two road wins (Iowa State at California; Texas A&M at Washington).  Our curiosity got the better of us thinking about this (see below), and using the Sagarin spreads (which we realize are not fully interrelated yet, but should still give a decent ballpark estimate), we determined that there’s a <1% chance of the Big 12 sweeping the remaining games.  It’s the Iowa State and Texas A&M road games that really hurt, but honestly, we don’t have a lot of faith in any Pac-10 school at this point.  Anyway, that’s the math, but our general sense is that the odds of a sweep are in reality a little greater than that.

big12-pac10 challenge odds

Make Mine a Double (RTC)Texas Tech 99, #10 Washington 92. There weren’t many games tonight, but the matchup between Texas Tech and Washington in Lubbock tonight was a classic.  The game was so nice, the students rushed it twice.  Or something like that.  After TTU’s Mike Singletary rebounded Elston Turner’s second straight miss at the foul line with five seconds remaining, he dribbled it upcourt and appeared to beat the horn with a running three-pointer (see the 1:50 mark in the below video).  The students rushed the court and started celebrating only to be told by the refs that the shot would not count and we were heading to overtime.  After a bizarre interlude waiting for the robotic vacuum to clean off the floor, the players reconvened for the extra period where Texas Tech used a late 6-0 run to pull away and finish off the previously unbeaten Huskies (the last team in the Pac-10 to lose a game), after which the students RTC’d again (good for them).  John Roberson had 25/7 and Mike Singletary had 16/12/4 assts in the winning effort, while Quincy Pondexter dropped 31/5/3 stls for UW.  Quick question — has anyone seen Abdul Gaddy this year?  The freshman phenom had a ridiculously bad 0-point, foul-plagued 10-minute performance tonight, which dovetails nicely with his season averages of 5/3 on 28% shooting (10% from three).  Ouch.  Washington will not reach its goals this season without more production from this talented guard.  As for Texas Tech, the Red Raiders are now 8-0, but tonight was by far their best win of the season.  Still, the defense has been solid, and if they can get through several difficult road games coming up (@ TCU, @ Wichita State, @ New Mexico), then they could be well positioned from an NCAA bid standpoint heading into the Big 12 season.

Other Big 12/Pac-10 Games.

  • #2 Texas 69, USC 50.  Texas’ defense continue to impress, as the nation’s #1 stoppers (according to Pomeroy) held an obviously outmatched Trojan team to 30% from the floor and 10% from behind the line.  Damion James had 19/9 and Dexter Pittman dominated the interior for 13/5/7 blks, including a complete emasculation of USC’s Alex Stepheson (0-8 FG).  UT’s freshman corps didn’t even play well (6-23 FG), but they really weren’t needed tonight, which goes to show just how deep and talented this Longhorn team is.
  • Baylor 64, Arizona State 61.  Baylor’s Tweety Carter remains scorching hot from outside, as he nailed 7-9 threes tonight for 27/4/3 assts in an evenly-matched game between two middling major conference teams.  This gives Carter thirteen treys in his last two games, as he hit six against Xavier the last time out.  ASU led for much of the second half before a 4-minute drought at the 9-minute mark allowed Carter to do his thing, giving the Bears a lead that they would hold onto through the remainder of the game.  Baylor leading scorer LaceDarius Dunn had only 7 pts on a poor 3-10 shooting night.

Was This Really Necessary? Marshall 119, Salem International 35.  We know that it’s not Marshall’s fault that Salem Intl. is going through an especially tough season in terms of breaking in a new coach, suspended players and so on… but did Marshall really need to embarrass them by 84 points tonight?  Even though the Marshall starters barely played, it may have been a good idea to run the clock on possessions after the lead blew up to, oh, say 70 or so.  Can anyone defend this score?  Why is a CUSA team playing a D2 team anyway?  Color us unimpressed.  If there’s any justice in this world, maybe UNC will beat the Thundering Herd by 60 when they visit Chapel Hill in three weeks.

Other Games of National Interest.  After about 100 last night, we had one tonight.

  • Seton Hall 89, Hartford 56.  The Hall has been very quiet in the first month of the season, in part due to their weak schedule, but the Pirates stayed undefeated behind Robert Mitchell’s 15/9 and Jeremey Hazell’s 15/2.
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ATB: Thanksgiving Leftovers…

Posted by rtmsf on November 30th, 2009

atb

Ed. Note: sorry for the delay on Sunday’s ATB, but the travel schedule got in the way…

Over the weekend, there was something in the neighborhood of 145 college basketball games.  Many were several times more compelling than watching Tim Tebow praise God one more time in another blowout Florida win or seeing the Charlie Weis Bataan death march at Notre Dame (although the Iron Bowl was good).  With that in mind, we’re here to sort through our Thanksgiving leftovers to award the teams that most and least deserve a scrumptious plate of tofurkey and leeks (ok, maybe that menu was at your house, not ours).

Turkey Sandwiches.  Usually better the second time around.  And the third time.  And the fourth…  Unless you’re Ben Howland and UCLA, and you’re starting to wonder if that mayo tastes a little spoiled after the fourth helping.  After UCLA dropped its third game in a row at the 76 Classic (and fourth on the year), questions are swirling as to what is wrong with his Bruins.  It’s not just that UCLA has four losses; it’s that these losses are to mid-majors like Cal State Fullerton, Portland, Butler and now Long Beach State.  Butler and Portland are NCAA-worthy, but the others?  Let’s examine what’s wrong, and see if anything can be done to fix it.  For starters, the UCLA offense — often a challenge in Howland’s era — is on life support this season.  Nobody on this team appears to be able to shoot the ball, and that includes from the field (44%), three (26%) and the line (56%).  Guards Malcolm Lee and Jerime Anderson were hot-shot recruits in the backcourt, but neither of them can break 40% from the field; there was a big fuss about Nikola Dragovic’s return to the team after an accusation of assault, and he’s hitting a frigid 25% of his attempts.  Good grief – when Michael Roll (23 pts in the LBSU game) is your “star” player, you have serious offensive issues.  But it’s not just the offense this season, as bad as that has been.  It’s also the defense, which is traditionally a Howland staple and has him contemplating changing his usual tough man-to-man for a zone.  UCLA is giving up 45% shooting to teams (worst in the Pac-10) and when they’ve needed to get the stop — witness the CS Fullerton and Butler games — they came up empty.  So the question is whether this team can turn it around, and we’re not sure that it can in time to stop the bleeding.  #1 Kansas is on the agenda next weekend, and Mississippi State and Notre Dame soon thereafter.  The Pac-10, as we all know by now, is incredibly weak, but if you can’t beat Long Beach and Fullerton, you’re not going to beat Arizona and Washington either.  There is a ton of work to be done here, and if Howland can turn it around by March, we’ll be right there at the front of the line to give him accolades.  Until then, though, UCLA basketball doesn’t take kindly to this stuff, so he’d better get moving quickly…

Pumpkin Pie.  A meal unto itself, making yourself fat and happy with pasty goodness.  Has anyone — and we mean anyone — looked better than West Virginia through the first three weeks of the season?  Let’s look at the short list: Syracuse and Duke.   That’s it – those are the only two teams who have looked as dominant as WVU in our estimation.  Yesterday Bob Huggins and his Mountaineers left Anaheim with what they were expected to do: win the 76 Classic.  Few expected them to do it by facing upstart WCC foe Portland in the championship game, as the Pilots crushed UCLA and outlasted Minnesota to get there, but there was Eric Reveno’s crew facing off against WVU in the finals.  The Pilots ran into a buzzsaw on Sunday, though, as Tournament MVP Da’Sean Butler posted 26 points and Portland shot just 5-24 from behind the three-point arc, clearly bothered by West Virginia’s athleticism and close-out pressure defense.  With the return of sophomore Devin Ebanks – after his mysterious stint in coach Huggins’ doghouse –- the Mountaineers look fine-tuned and ready to compete with anyone in the nation.  Of course, it’s only November, and we’ve been down this road with Huggins before, so stay prepared for anything.

Mac n’ Cheese.  Gooey deliciousness.  That’s how Northwestern must be feeling after winning the Chicago Invitational over two tough teams, Notre Dame and Iowa State.  Maybe that NCAA Tournament bid isn’t a pipe dream after all since losing Kevin Coble and Jeff Ryan to injuries, because it’s clear that Northwestern has decided that it will not go quietly.  John Shurna led the Wildcats with 23/7/4 assts while helping to harass ISU star Craig Brackins into a 6-16 FG, 18/9 night (he’s capable of much more).   As it stands, Northwestern is now 5-1, with its sole loss to Butler and a good chance to enter Big Ten play at 11-1 (tomorrow night’s ACC/B10 game against NC State is winnable). 

Green Bean Casserole#2 Michigan State gets the green bean casserole leftovers because, like the dish, they held up fairly well after a disappointing start in the Legends Classic.  The Spartans recovered from their shocking upset loss to Florida on Friday night in the semifinal round by taking it out on UMass in the consolation game 106-68 on Saturday.  RTC Live was there if you want more details, but MSU used a 30-3 first half run to dominate the Minutemen, and ended up the game shooting a red-hot 58% and hitting fourteen threes.  Tom Izzo set a new record for wins at Michigan State with his 341st win on this night, passing his mentor Jud Heathcote.

Warm Rolls. It’s comforting and makes you feel all fuzzy inside, just like family; the First Bro-in-Law had his warm fuzzies at Oregon State’s game in DC with GW on Saturday.  Craig Robinson’s Oregon State team got its first decent win of the season 64-57 against the previously unbeaten Colonials as the First Family looked on.  OSU’s Seth Tarver lit up the stat sheet with 18/7/3 assts/3 stls, but given how badly the Beavers have played to this point, President Obama may want to make plans for several visits to the west coast in January and February. 

Obama

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ATB: Gator Chomp & Upset Friday Night

Posted by rtmsf on November 28th, 2009

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Gators Chomp Spartans. Florida 77, #2 Michigan State 74.  We’re still trying to figure out why this was a semifinal game at the Legends Classic instead of the title tilt tomorrow night, but we’re sure there was a method to the madness somewhere in that decision.  So given that the game was only available on something called HDNet, we’re trying to figure out how this happened.  First thought — had to be hot shooting by the Gators, right?  Errr, nope.  Florida shot 41% from the field compared to MSU’s 53% for the game.  Ok, a bunch of threes then?  Nope again.  UF hit more than the Spartans, but a margin of five to two from deep isn’t exactly dominant.  Second chance points?  Wrong again.  MSU dominated the boards to the tune of +15 overall and +5 on the offensive end of the court.  No, the only two areas of the game where Florida outperformed the second-ranked Spartans were on turnovers (forcing 22 vs. their own 12) and getting to the foul line (25 attempts vs. MSU’s 14).  Well, that, and Erving Walker’s three (his only one on a 12/7/3 stls night) from NBA range to put the Gators up 72-71, providing just enough cushion down the stretch with some additional FTs to hold off the Spartans’ last-ditch efforts by Durrell Summers to tie the game and send it into OT.   We’re not about to say that the Gators are anywhere near back to where they are nationally relevant again, but this is their biggest win since 2007, and we will give some props to John Stevens for having ranked Florida in the three RTC Top 25 polls so far this season — maybe he knows something that the rest of us don’t?  Florida will advance to play Rutgers in the championship game of the Legends Classic tomorrow night, while Michigan State gets UMass in the consolation game.

kenny boynton fla

WCC Continues to Impress.  The WCC continues to flex its mid-major deltoids this season.  With wins over Wisconsin, Minnesota, UCLA, USC, Stanford, Oklahoma and now Houston, the top half of this league is not messing around.  And why should it – there’s some good basketball being played in this league, and if the bottom-feeders like LMU and USF can manage just halfway-decent records in the OOC, the league could be looking at three solid NCAA bids again this year (as in 2008).

  • Portland 61, #16 Minnesota 56.  If you haven’t caught the Portland Pilots on tv yet this season, make a point of watching these guys on Sunday night in the 76 Classic title game against West Virginia — they’re really entertaining in a plucky Gonzaga-ten-years-ago sort of way.  Their mixed defenses left the Minnesota big players who had such nice games last night — Colton Iverson and Ralph Sampson, III — confused and relatively unproductive tonight.  TJ Campbell was superb for Portland, carving out 23/5 to supplement the work that Nik Raivio (9/11) and Robin Smeulders (13/6) were putting in.  Minnesota shot only 33% from the field and a terrible 16% from deep, and got killed on the boards, but they managed to turn UP over just enough to stay in the game throughout.
  • San Diego 72, Houston 65. USD moves on to the finals of the Great Alaska Shootout, where they will face Washington State, arguably the weakest opponent they will have faced while in the frozen northern environs of Palin-land this weekend.  Clinton Houston (irony?) led San Diego with 21 pts, while Brandon Johnson stepped up to drop 13 of his 15 in the second half to ensure the win.

Other Upsets Tonight.  We were all set to destroy the SEC for another terrible night before we saw the Florida-MSU score, which saves considerable face for the league.  But we’re definitely watching you, SEC.  The Big Ten didn’t have a great night either, but at least they lost at neutral sites to teams that are better than their ranking.

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ATB: Feast Week Debuts

Posted by rtmsf on November 24th, 2009

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Game of the NightPurdue 73, Tennessee 72.  This game between two of the best teams in the Big Ten and SEC was a back-and-forth affair that predictably came down to the final possession.  It was that final possession, however, that exhibited why we tend to not believe in Bruce Pearl’s Vols as a true contender while giving Purdue much more credit.  After Purdue’s Kelsey Barlow bricked two FTs that would have given the Boilermakers a three-point lead with 17 seconds remaining, UT’s Bobby Maze dribbled down and found career 32% three-point shooter Wayne Chism at the top of the key… for a three?  Um, guys, all you need is a two!  Penetrate the lane and put it on the rim!  It’s not that Chism couldn’t have made the shot — he was in fact having a great game with 24/6 — but it wasn’t a high-percentage shot, and the Vol players need to know that.  It’s that kind of shoddy decisionmaking (and defense) that we’ve routinely seen out of these Vols that makes us have our doubts.  Purdue gutted out this one behind Robbie Hummel’s 20/7 and E’Twaun Moore’s 22/3/3 assts, and Matt Painter’s team will go home with the trophy from the Paradise Jam this year.

Maui Invitational.

  • Gonzaga 76, Colorado 72. The Zags’ heads were clearly still on the mainland tonight as they came out very sluggish and allowed Colorado to build a double-digit lead and shoot 53% from the floor before rallying back to take a late lead and win a first-round Maui tilt against Colorado.  Steven Gray (27/4) and Matt Bouldin (25/4/4 assts) led the way for Gonzaga, while Cory Higgins (19/6) led the charge for the Buffs.
  • Wisconsin 65, Arizona 61.  Other than UT-Purdue, this was the next best game of the day, and for a while, it appeared that Sean Miller’s young Arizona team might get a confidence-inspiring win after getting off to a horrific start (down 16-2) in this game.  In a typically ugly fashion, Wisconsin defended all over the place, but Arizona freshman Derrick Williams (25/8) kept making big plays on the interior to keep UA in the game.  Is it possible that Arizona, with all their personnel losses, is one of the best teams in the Pac-10 (answer: yes)?
  • #22 Maryland 79, Chaminade 51.  Is something wrong with Greivis Vasquez?  For the fourth straight game this season, the electrifying guard put up only single-figure points (6/5 assts).  Having not seen his games, it’s possible that he is eschewing individual scoring to set up his teammates (such as Sean Mosley, who had 19/8), but we’re intrigued at this point to see what he does against Cincinnati tomorrow.
  • Cincinnati 67, #24 Vanderbilt 58.  This is the Cincy team that everyone was talking about leading up to the season, as the tougher Bearcats dominated Vandy on the glass (45-27) and took residence in their jerseys the rest of the time, holding Vandy to a paltry 28% from the field.  In an ugly game, Yancy Gates led the way with 16/10, and hyped super-recruit Lance Stephenson contributed 8/5.

Upset of the Night (aka Pac-10 Loser of the Night)Montana 68, Oregon 55.  When oh when will the embarrassments for the Pac-10 end?  Sacramento State, Loyola Marymount, Cal State Fullerton… now add Montana to the list.  Look, we know that Montana is a favorite in the Big Sky, but this is Oregon’s McArthur Court, a place that used to be a difficult venue for opposing teams — especially those from mid-major conferences — to play.  The Grizzlies’ star, Anthony Johnson, lived at the line for 20/4/3 assts as the league picked up its twelfth loss of the early season already.  Montana shot 51% while Oregon foundered in the low 30s… at home.  Things may not get better for this league until they start playing each other in January (it doesn’t look so bad because not everyone can lose). 

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ATB: Weekend Wrap – Pac-10 and SEC Struggle Again

Posted by rtmsf on November 23rd, 2009

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It was an odd weekend of basketball.  The games weren’t all that interesting — at least when compared to Friday night, for example — but there was plenty to talk about when scores started rolling in.  Mainly, it was a weekend that had few storylines other than Pac-10/SEC incompetence and prep work for all of the holiday tournaments that start this week.

Pac-10 Nightmare Saturday.

  • Loyola Marymount 67, USC 59. Will this ultimately be the worst BCS team loss of the entire season?  LMU won a total of three games last season, and while the Lions are undoubtedly better, there is absolutely no excuse for them to beat a Pac-10 team on their homecourt.  Ever.  We understand that Kevin O’Neill has virtually no depth at his disposal, but come on…
  • Sacramento State 65, Oregon State 63.  Regression to the mean on OSU this year?  All the great work Craig Robinson put in to make a horrid team competitive seems to have gone by the wayside this year, as the Beavers laid another stinker against a team they should easily handle at home.  Down 22 at the half, OSU rallied back behind Seth Tarver’s 14/10, but it was too little too late.  The Pac-10 RPI continues to sink.
  • Portland 88, Oregon 81. This is actually the one loss that should have been expected, as Portland is likely to be the better team this year.  Nik Raivio had 24/8 and his frontcourt mate had 17/8 as they shredded the Duck defense for 53% from the field and 58% from deep.  This will end up being a win that Portland will look favorably upon later this season.

More Upsets This Weekend.

  • VCU 82, #17 Oklahoma 69.  This seemed like a trap game when reviewing schedules, and it turned out to be one.  Willie Warren had a disastrous game, shooting only 3-14 (0-8 from three) and committing six turnovers in the outing.  Freshmen Tiny Gallon and Tommy Mason-Griffin combined for 25/18/6 assts, but VCU’s stars Larry Sanders (17/4/3 blks) and Jay Gavin (20/5/3 assts) outperformed them in Jeff Capel’s return trip to his old coaching haunt.
  • Temple 71, Siena 67.  The Saints found themselves on the wrong end of a 13-0 second half run by Temple that gave up their hard-earned halftime lead.  Juan Fernandez led the Owls with 20/3 assts, but it was Siena’s poor three-point shooting (1-9) that ultimately doomed them in this game.  Alex Franklin had 22/6 and Ryan Rossiter had 8/11, but Siena will need to play better in coming weeks to make a push for an at-large should they not win the MAAC Tournament.
  • Vermont 77, Rutgers 71.  Vermont should be proud to have gone into a Big East arena of a team that some expect to make waves this season and get a big win.  Marqus Blakely did everything — 17/9/2 assts/4 stls/5 blks — as UVM gutted out a hard-fought victory in Piscataway.
  • Kansas State 83, #21 Dayton 75.  Really not much of an upset, but a good team was going to leave Puerto Rico 1-2, and Dayton is the unlucky recipient.  Jacob Pullen had 26/5/4 assts for K-State, while Dayton’s Chris Wright came through with 15/10 on the other side.

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ATB: Northwestern Really Misses Kevin Coble

Posted by rtmsf on November 19th, 2009

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A quiet day following the storm of the 24-hour marathon and on the eve of two tremendous CvC semifinal matchups tomorrow night in New York City…

Story of the Day Butler Passes Its First Non-Conference Test. #10 Butler 67, Northwestern 54. It was a balanced effort last night for the Bulldogs who shook off a sluggish opener against Davidson to down the shorthanded Wildcats. Northwestern could have used leading scorer and rebounder Kevin Coble along with senior forward Jeff Ryan (both out with season-ending injuries) against a deeper Butler squad that saw five players notch nine points or better. The effort was led by sophomore point guard Shelvin Mack’s 15 points and eight assists while Gordon Hayward chipped in with 14 of his own. Butler was able to win despite shooting a lackluster 8-16 from the charity stripe, a statistic I’m sure coach Brad Stevens won’t ignore. Butler now has a road date with Evansville before departing for Anaheim next week.  For mor e details from this one, our RTC Live post is on it.

Longhorn Domination (or Was It?). #3 Texas 73, Western Carolina 41. Dominating win for the Longhorns against weak competition, but 21 turnovers and 18-31 from the free throw line have to be concerning numbers for Rick Barnes. A balanced scoring effort last night with some highlights including Damion James ’18/7/2 on 4-9 FG, 2-3 3pt and 8-10 FT, Gary Johnson with 10 points on 4-4 FG and potential starting point guard J’Covan Brown with 10 points on 3-3 FG. Remember: the Longhorns still don’t have Jai Lucas eligible. This is still the second-best team in the nation in my humble estimation.

Other Games of National Interest.

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